Pure Electric Pure Free City is a great cheap ebike: it may be big and ugly but it's also exceptional value

Pure Electric Pure Free City is a sturdy, hefty electric bike that’s also a heavyweight when it comes to VFM

Pure Electric Pure Free City
(Image credit: Pure Electric)

I get sent a lot of beautiful things to try out, but not everything has to be beautiful. The Pure Free City sounds like a kind of futuristic dystopia but it's actually a cheap  ebike from Pure Electric. Last year, the same brand launched the Pure Flux One, which was sportier, lighter and even cheaper at £999. The Pure Free City is slightly more expensive at £1,099 but it packs in a lot more features. There's gears, mudguards, a luggage rack, an improved screen, a bigger but better hidden battery – the Pure Flux One's was bolted to the frame; here it’s under the luggage rack – and built-in lights. So all things considered, it's even better value than the Pure Flux One. 

I'm not sure I'd buy a Pure Free City myself – with its double-tubed, step-through frame, it is really is quite ugly. It also weighs a tonne, and with weird weight distribution to boot – it's practically all at the back. However, as with all ebikes, it's a fun, easy ride, once you get used to it, and in terms of value for money it has a lot of inner beauty. If you aren't put off by the looks, you should definitely consider a purchase.

I've been riding one for the last few months and this is what I found.

Pure Electric Pure Free City

Pure Electric Pure Free City: not exactly a looker but you sense it'll last

(Image credit: Pure Electric)

My first impression of the Pure Free City was: 'that is a LOT of bike for just over a grand.' You get seven-speed gearing – the Flux One was single-speed – as well as lights, luggage space and a screen you can actually see – the Flux One's was more like a glorified on/off switch. 

Actually, that was more like my second impression, as my first one was, 'Holy shit, that is one ugly bike. And it's massive!' The Pure Free City weighs 23kg, whereas its stripped-down predecessor was 'only' 17kg, which is pretty light by ebike standards.

With the bike charged and safety checked – well, I squeezed the tyres to check they weren't flat – I was more impressed once I had mounted up. Using a step-through frame might make you feel a bit geriatric, but you soon get very used to not having to swing your leg over like a high jumper just to get your butt on the saddle.

Another great improvement I noted once saddled up was that now I was on the bike, I could no longer see it, unless I rode past a mirrored window. Aesthetically, this was immediately a big leap forward. 

At this point, I did start to feel concerned about how many corners Pure Electric might have cut in order to get the price down. Usually, you can tell a cheap bike immediately from the quality of its most mundane accessories, and the Pure Free City is no exception. The saddle, to be fair, is pretty comfortable; this is very much a bike built for comfort not speed or sexiness. The pedals are, let's say, 'functional' and the grips are possibly the weirdest I have ever used. They're made of some kind of plastic that feels unpleasantly slick to the touch. So the result is you're holding something that feels sweaty before you've even started to sweat. Actually in all likelihood, you may never sweat while cycling on the Pure Free City, unless it's a really hot day, so it's doubly weird. To counteract this, the grips have been heavily textured. This means your hands don't in fact slip, even though they feel slippy, but also makes the experience of holding the grips even more unpleasant. 

I eventually got around this by wearing a pair of fingerless cycling gloves, so I am not going to make out that it's an insurmountable obstacle, but it wasn't a great start. Oh, and then I went over a speed bump at 'high speed' – about 13mph – and the front reflector immediately fell off, and was promptly run over by the white van behind me. So that really wasn't a great start, but thankfully after that, it was largely plain sailing.

Pure Electric Pure Free City and Pure Free Step

Want more luggage space? The Pure Electric Pure Free City (rear) is joined by the Pure Free Step, which is essentially the same thing but with a basket on the front

(Image credit: Pure Electric)

I genuinely enjoy riding ebikes of all types, apart from the really cheap ones, where you slightly fear for your life. The Pure Free City is no exception. That is despite the fact that it's pretty weighty, and also practically all said weight – motor, battery, luggage rack – is right at the back. The 250W motor is powered by a battery big enough to give you a 28 mile maximum range – it recharges fully in six hours. 

Starting in a low gear, the motor immediately applies enough force to get you motoring. Possibly if you want to make a steep hill start you might struggle, but it's more than adequate for 99% of scenarios. One slightly quirky thing about the Pure Electric ebike range is that the three power settings actually increase the top speed available to you. Most ebikes have a top assisted speed of 15.5mph no matter what assistance level you are in – it just takes more time/effort on your part to get there. 

I honestly can't see why you would ever use an ebike in a mode that restricts you to 9mph (15kph) or 12mph (20kph). Let's face it, 15.5mph (25kph) is hardly lightning fast. So I subsequently kept the bike at its top assistance level at all times. 

The entry-level Shimano gears are reliable and have a big chunky changer. Again, I am not sure most people would ever use anything other than the top two, but the lower gears could be useful if you ever encounter a really intimidating hill, whilst holidaying on the coast, or in San Francisco. 

I wasn't expecting the drive train to be super smooth like a high-end electric bike. And sure enough, it was not. Power is applied in a fairly haphazard ways, fading and surging seemingly at random, at times. However it never felt unsafe and in a way, it's more exciting to ride than something that adds power in a more intelligent manner that mirrors your pedalling.

The rear luggage rack is great for carrying your office baggage or light shopping, although it does mean that you now have even more weight on the rear of the bike. Even better, the built-in lights are excellent for the money. I usually feel that the built-in lights on ebikes give nothing more than a base level of visibility, and you should then add some additional lights of your own when night-riding, but you could probably get away with just the Pure Free City's own lights.

Given the heft of it, disk brakes would be generally preferable to the calliper brakes included here but realistically, you are never going to go faster than 15.5mph on the flat, on this beast. If you're going down a steep hill you might miss having disk brakes and will need to be a little cautious but in general, it's fine. Disks would also push the price up, and this bike is all about maximising the bang for your buck.

Pure Electric Pure Free City: my verdict

Pure Electric Pure Free City

The Pure Free City is described as unisex but seems aimed more at men. Well, all the promo pics of it feature men, and it's black

(Image credit: Pure Electric)

I had a blast riding the Pure Electric Pure Free City. It's a classic ebike, in the sense that if you removed the motor – or ran out of battery – it would be a nightmare to ride. But add just a little, 250W motor and you have something that is way more fun than it looks. 

It steers like a cow, it looks pretty fugly and carrying it up stairs is something of a challenge. However, on the mean streets of London town, its stability and reliability made me feel safe and contented. Since there was no way I was going to get it up past 15.5mph without exhausting myself completely, I settled into pootling about mode and found the experience very pleasant. The lights, mudguards and luggage rack may all be rather unglamorous, but they sure are useful. Pure Electric should really look at changing those horrible grips, but other than that there's little to complain about, especially given the price.

Speaking of the price, can you rely on an ebike this cheap to be safe and to last for years to come? As far as I can see, it is certainly safe. And while the electrics on a bike like this will probably not be as reliable long-term, on average, as what you'll get on a £3,000 ebike with Bosch drive train, Pure Electric does offer a two-year warranty. The relatively simple motor and battery should also be fairly easy to service or, ultimately, to replace. 

I would always recommend spending more on an ebike – using the Cycle to Work scheme for instance. However I know some people don't want to spend more, or are not in a position to, and in this price bracket, the Pure Free City is about as good as it gets.

Pure Electric Pure Free City: price and availability

The Pure Free City costs £1,099 and is available now. WHen it was first announced, this bike actually cost just £999, but inflation and supply chain realities have evidently pushed the price up a little. Pure Electric offers a 2-year warranty on the electrics and 3 years on the frame and forks. 

Look away now, readers outside the UK: these bikes are not available to you. But just so you know, the pricing equates to $1,350 in the USA and AU$1900 in Australia.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.